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Anime’s Survival Genre: Creating a Killing Game

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Anime’s survival genre, which has lent itself to a spectrum of popular, critically acclaimed shows over the years, has a sub-genre that is more diverse and nuanced than it seems to the casual glance. The infamous “killing game” sub-genre has spawned many easily recognizable, seeming cult-classics. 

While the killing game genre is massive, and maybe even a bit oversaturated to date, the three anime adaptations covered in this article serve as proof that a seemingly rigid basis for a plot can take many concrete and thematic twists and turns.

There are many listicles online that can serve as great jumping-off points to find different entries to your liking—here, however, you’ll read a more in-depth analysis of three shows, each with their own cult following and notoriety.

These shows are: When the Seagulls Cry (Umineko no naku koro ni), Danganronpa: The Animation, and Future Diary (Mirai Nikki).

For these shows, this article will ask the same three questions:

  1. What is the basic premise of the killing game?
  2. What is the defining philosophy of the protagonist?
  3. How are the character deaths handled during the game?

In the interest of not spoiling the ending for these shows, this article will focus mostly on how each killing game is first introduced.

Answering these questions, with a laser focus on just three examples, will show just how nuanced the construction of a killing game anime can be. 

When the Seagulls Cry (Umineko no naku koro ni)

When the Seagulls Cry (Umineko no naku koro ni)

Question 1: What is the basic premise of the killing game?

This anime serves as an adaptation for the Umineko: When They Cry visual novel series. Protagonist Battler Ushiromiya travels to his family’s estate on a private island, reuniting with his extended family after an absence of six years. As Battler reconnects with his cousins, his aunts and uncles discuss the finances (the potential inheritance) to be left behind by Battler’s grandfather, Kinzo Ushiromiya. Battler, his family members, and several of the estate’s staff, get stranded on the isolated island by a typhoon, and a chain of brutal murders begins, in accordance with a strange riddle, supposedly hinting at a way to find Kinzo’s secret stash of gold, and the headship of the family, simultaneously avoiding a gruesome death at the hands of Beatrice, the mysterious “golden witch.”

Thus, this particular killing game has dual incentives for survival and material wealth.

The killings follow a pre-determined schedule of sorts, the twelve “twilights,” described in the main riddle, which predict both the number of people who will die, and how.

However, they are intentionally cryptic, and do not specify who will die. This adds to an overall sense of the killing game being both a dreaded inevitability and an impossible mystery, leaving everyone subjected to it utterly defenseless.

Question 2:  How are the character deaths handled throughout the game?

Characters’ deaths in this entry are by far the goriest and grotesque out of the three anime covered here. There’s a seeming fetishization of death, as the bodies are often horribly disfigured—to the point that, even seeing the censored versions can be hard to look at. However, this is not senseless gore—this apparent disrespect to the dignity of his murdered relatives and the estate’s longstanding employees enrages Battler, fueling him to declare all-out-war against Beatrice and the killing game itself.

Question 3: What is the defining philosophy of the protagonist?

Battler is determined to use logic and reasoning to solve the various, seemingly “impossible” murders that occur around him, while refuting the idea that the deaths of his loved ones were caused by the “golden witch” Beatrice and, thus, magic. After the first series of deaths, the anime places Battler in a different dimension, able to converse with a woman who claims to be Beatrice. What follows is a test of Battler’s faith in logic and reasoning, in the face of the cruel and vindictive witch “Beatrice.” This tension amplifies as a sort of groundhog-day effect happens, wherein the scenario resets itself, with Battler forced to watch the murders begin anew, with new victims and circumstances, struggling to keep his head and solve the atrocities in a rational way.

Danganronpa: The Animation

Danganronpa: The Animation

Question 1: What is the basic premise of the killing game?

This anime adaptation of the Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc video game, places Makoto Naegi and his fifteen classmates trapped in a sealed-off, underground version of Hope’s Peak Academy high school. With no memory of what happened to them and how they got there, they are pressured into playing a killing game, wherein the winner can both survive and escape back to the outside world. 

The killing game follows a specific pattern for each murder. Monokuma, the self-proclaimed principal (a talking teddy bear) states that participation in the killing game is the only way to escape to the outside. Each new murder begins with a body discovery, followed by a limited window of time to investigate the murder, and, finally, a class trial, wherein the students try to present evidence to vote for and convict the culprit.

The game itself is very controlled and regimented, with the only freedom presented is the freedom to kill in any way the culprit chooses.

The incentive, then, besides basic survival, is to escape to the outside world, albeit at the other classmates. Soon, however, a thematic duality between protagonist and the killing game’s mastermind occurs, similar to When the Seagulls Cry, as Makoto Naegi fights Monokuma’s attempts to spread despair to incite murder with a fervent belief in “hope” to both stop participation in the killing game and for everyone to escape.

Question 2: How are the character deaths handled throughout the game?

This show revels in death, but not in gore so much as in spectacle. Similar to its source material, the anime builds tension leading up to each body discovery, and everybody discovery is surreal, near-unbelievable because each is bizarre in its own way. The bodies bleed pink blood, and each body discovery is shown with a shaking screen.

The number of bizarre details provided to each murder is crucial to the plot progression, as this lends itself to the “investigation” component, followed by the trial. Additionally, every time a culprit is found guilty of murder, they are given a tailor-made execution scene, complete with its own unique animation sequence—at the hands of a teddy bear. 

Question 3: What is the defining philosophy of the protagonist?

Naegi remains staunchly against falling under Monokuma’s influence and engaging in the killing game. At first, he tries his best to deny that anyone would play into Monokuma’s game. However, once the murders begin, he develops a fervent belief in “hope,” which, as mentioned, runs in exact contrast to the theme of “despair” espoused by Monokuma (and, later, the true culprit). Naegi’s survival instinct becomes intertwined with his belief in his “hope.” As the story continues, Naegi and Monokuma dig themselves deeper into their dualing ideologies, and are alternatingly angered by, and dismissive of, the other’s ideals. 

The inclusion of the other classmates on equal footing means that, while some try to murder their peers, others begin to side with and aid Naegi, to end the game and regain their freedom.

Future Diary (Mirai Nikki)

Future Diary (Mirai Nikki)

Question 1: What is the basic premise of the killing game?

Protagonist Yukiteru Amano, a shy fourteen-year-old student, is pulled out of his ordinary school life as a social recluse when he is thrown into a killing game by the god of causality Deus Ex Machina, wherein Yuki and eleven others are provided their own future diaries, which predict the future in a manner unique to their character, and are pressed to find and kill one another, with the last person remaining will become the next god in place of Deus.

This killing game has next to no rules—kill the other diary holders, and you win. The game, then, has the dual incentives of survival and becoming a god.

At the anime’s beginning, the other participants have seemingly been chosen at random to participate (with the commonality of living within Sakurami City). However, Yuki has previously conversed privately with Deus many times as his “imaginary friend,” and, in the anime, after Yuki muses about having no “dreams or goals,” and saying “all I have is this diary and this imaginary world,” Deus states he will start an “entertaining game,” telling Yuki “I shall bestow the future upon you.” Soon after the game begins and, while the other contestants are regularly summoned to speak with Deus as a group, their identities obscured, Deus clearly favors Yuki from the start, which ironically leads many contestants to try killing him first.

Question 2: How are the character deaths handled throughout the game?

Interestingly, the first two diary-holder deaths are more strange that horrific—their diaries are destroyed, and their bodies morph and warp in a spiral into sheer nothingness. However, there are plenty of non-diary holder characters who die gruesomely, even at this early stage, and soon after the deaths of diary holders become gory in their own right. Much of this death and destruction comes from Yuno Gasai (another diary holder and infamous yandere), who seems unfazed by it, particularly as it involves protecting Yuki—however, as time goes on, Yuki bloodies his own hands, likely desensitized by the game.

Question 3: What is the defining philosophy of the protagonist?

Prior to the game’s start, Yuki’s personal philosophy is being a mere “observer” of life around him. This is made impossible once the game begins. Throughout the game, Yuki struggles between his basic instinct for survival and a growing desire to cast aside his loneliness and build friendships with those around him. This theme is highlighted a number of times, when Yuno, determined to help Yuki survive, delivers heat-of-the-moment ultimatums urging Yuki to abandon potential allies and friends to save himself. This dynamic is ironic, as Deus originally positioned the start of the killing game as a chance for Yuki to break out of his socially isolated tendencies. However, Yuno is from the start is simultaneously reliable and unreliable. On the one hand, she seems an expert at survival and knows the rules of the killing game before Deus has even given his official explanation to Yuki (and the viewer). On the other hand, she is Yuki’s stalker, and her obsessive tendencies are emotionally unhealthy for Yuki.

In the end…

As this discussion hopefully shows, there are a number of ways to expound upon the specific anime sub-genre of killing games. Using the above examples illuminates how choices governing both the killing game’s rules and it’s protagonist’s identity and personal philosophy can take a viewer down vastly different, and shockingly entertaining narrative paths.

By Katharine Booth

Based in southern Connecticut, Katharine works in several roles as a freelance writer, copy editor, and academic tutor, while moonlighting as a hopeless anime fanatic. Both with anime and video games, Katharine has a taste for the oddly specific, with a popular, generic favorite thrown into the mix every once in a blue moon.

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Anime

How Rimuru Tempest Changed the Game for Isekai Protagonists

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime shines within the vast sea of generic isekai thanks in no small part to protagonist Rimuru Tempest.

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that time i got reincarnated as a slime

The core premise of the isekai genre–a character being transported from their everyday life on Earth to a parallel universe–has become wildly popular for a reason: it’s an immensely appealing fantasy. Just as audiences everywhere fell in love with the seminal Spirited Away in the early 2000s, it’s still exciting to fantasize about discovering a new world and going on all manner of crazy adventures. However, the incessant flood of new isekai every season to capitalize on this trend has resulted in some of the most generic, overly-manufactured protagonists in any genre.

Though this sea of formulaic main characters is vast, it makes it all the easier to recognize when one bucks the typical conventions and actually proves that there’s room for unique takes on the genre. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime adheres to a few cliches, but it also manages to set a new bar for what a captivating isekai protagonist can be.

Rimuru in That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

Breaking the Mold

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is as wholesome and optimistic an anime as they come. The tone can be deceptive at first; when Satoru Mikami is suddenly stabbed when trying to protect his junior, his dying wish is for his computer’s hard drive to be destroyed. But after being reincarnated as a slime–and gaining the new name Rimuru Tempest–his true desires become clear: world peace and a simple, comfortable life with friends.

What’s immediately striking about Rimuru as the main character is that he starts off as an average 37-year-old man. He spent his life working hard and appeasing his higher-ups to climb the corporate ladder. Shady hard drive aside, he lived a respectable and long life compared to the vast majority of protagonists in the genre. This significant age difference is evident in nearly every action and major decision Rimuru makes; he looks at situations practically before jumping headfirst into conflict.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

When Rimuru gets a drink poured on him by a noble in a bar, for instance, he quells his anger in consideration of the bar and the friends around him. When someone asks for his aid in an impending battle, he pauses to go over all the available information and reaches a consensus among everyone before agreeing. And when protecting a goblin village from a pack of wolves, he doesn’t just mindlessly slaughter all the wolves; he looks for the way of least resistance (killing the leader of the pack) before ultimately integrating them with the goblins as equals. Though his human form looks young, it’s the wisdom behind his actions that makes those around him respect his leadership.

This is especially impressive considering just how overpowered Rimuru is. His transformation into a slime came with resistances to fire, cold, electric currents, pain, paralysis, and the ability to absorb, analyze, and take the form of anything he wants. In other words, he could go down the path of the typical shounen protagonist and solve his problems with his fists, but he never lets his overwhelming power dictate his decision-making process.

Rimuru meeting with his commanders.

Leading a Nation

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is as much about Rimuru’s adventures as it is about the rise of the independent monster nation he helps establish. Instead of running off in search of adventure, the little slime decides to nurture the goblin village he protected at the outset. He helps the goblins and wolves “level up” by naming them, shows them sustainable ways to gather food and build makeshift defenses, and even brings back dwarves to introduce blacksmithing and carpentry.

Through expansion, industrialization, and conflict, Rimuru manages to orchestrate the creation of his country in a way that’s genuinely believable. His ambitions for a peaceful and integrated world play out in his willingness to accept other goblin tribes, ogres, lizardmen, and even friendly humans in his country. Being able to rationally read situations makes forging alliances and negotiating with neighboring nations possible. When a major calamity threatens all life in the forest, Rimuru wastes no time in holding a summit and allying with other forest dwellers over a common interest.

None of this would be possible without the uncanny, Luffy-like ability to inspire a sense of trust and reliability in those he comes across. Just like the members of the Straw Hat Pirates follow Luffy out of respect and loyalty, Rimuru’s commanders follow him because of his sound judgment and dedication to seeing everyone in his nation be happy. It’s satisfying seeing members of Rimuru’s guard take personal offense when others talk poorly of him because it’s clear that he’s earned the respect he’s given.

If isekai is to continue growing in popularity and thriving long-term, room must be made for different types of protagonists. Be they depraved, refreshingly honest characters like Kazuma or upstanding yet easygoing leaders like Rimuru, both demonstrate how valuable it is to shake up the formula and try new approaches to the genre. If the constant barrage of isekai has bittered your tolerance to it as a whole, That Time I got Reincarnated as a Slime is well worth giving a shot.

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Anime Ichiban 23: New Decade, Same Questionable Tastes

Hatsune Miku at Coachella? Mangadex getting targeted for legal issues? People defending OreImo? 2020 is off to a crazy start!

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Welcome to 2020, Anime Ichiban listeners!

Lots of things have happened in the past few weeks, not the least of which is Hatsune Miku making her Coachella debut. After catching up on industry news, we take a look back at some of our more questionable choices in anime and how on earth we manage to defend them.

TIMESTAMPS

0:00 – Introduction and what we’ve been playing
17:46 – Hatsune Miku to Perform at Coachella
25:29 – Crunchyroll’s “Most Watched Shows of the Decade”
30:03 – Funimation’s Popularity Awards
38:13 – Wages in the Japanese Animation Industry
45:38 – Miki Yoshikawa’s New, Fan-Picked Serialization
47:08 – Legal Trouble Brewing for Mangadex
57:02 – Highest Grossing Domestic Anime Films for Japan in 2019
59:33 – What shows surprised us and which ones do we struggle to defend?

TRACKS

Intro – “Dream X Scramble!” by Airi (Keijo!!!!!!!! OP)
Outro – “Lucky☆Orb feat. Hatsune Miku” by emon(Tes.)

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Anime

The Best Anime of the Decade (Ranks 25-1)

Our list of the best anime of the decade continues with some series that are true paragons are what the medium is capable of creating!

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Best Anime of the Decade

Now we arrive at the second part of our list for the best anime of the decade. This is where we really had to start killing our babies in the voting process to narrow down to this lean lineup. If you missed it, be sure to check out our first part of the list as well!


25 – The Saga of Tanya the Evil

The Saga of Tanya the Evil

Studio: NUT
Runtime: January 6th, 2017 – March 31st, 2017

The Saga of Tanya the Evil is a master class in character study, cataloging the trials and errors of Tanya, formerly a “salaryman” in modern-day Japan, transported to an alternate war-torn world inspired by elements of both WWI and WWII. Through a blend of fantasy and historical fiction, viewers watch as Tanya works to rise the social ladder within the military.

The story has moments of dark humor, as Tanya tries, and often fails, to apply the disciplined mindset of a modern-day corporate social climber in this alternate fantasy world. Her motivations are challenged as she balances her status in the middle of the military hierarchy. On one hand interacting with her underling soldiers, while on the other also answering to the military commanders who control her future. Finally, Tanya is in an ongoing conflict with “Being X,” the supposed god who transported Tanya in the first place. The two show unbridled defiance towards each other, which serves as a larger background plot for the series. However, while important overall, this plotline is restrained enough to not take away from the bulk of the world-building and plot progression in the immediate, concrete world Tanya finds herself in. — Katharine Booth

Watch on Crunchyroll

24 – Durarara!!

Durarara

Studio: Brain’s Base
Runtime: January 8th, 2010 – June 25th, 2010

Durarara!! draws its strength from its sprawling, quirky ensemble cast as their story arcs intertwine in the show’s heavily sensationalized interpretation of modern-day Ikebukuro. The show’s many story arcs fall under three categories: everyday life (both in high school and the city streets), gritty behind-the-scenes conflict, and the fantastical and supernatural.

It’s a credit to the series that these vastly different story archetypes work together. This is done by humanizing every character, while also presenting them as each having a darker, unexpected side. Even the show’s main trio — three high school students — are shown over time to be not as innocent as they seem, each very much “in over their head” in the goings-on of Ikebukuro.

Durarara!! works so well because it deftly ties together its quirky ensemble cast with its setting, a city defined by its breakneck everyday pace and its larger-than-life mysteries. Finally, pulling it all together is the music. Some songs are perfect for the awkward innocence of early adolescence, others unsettling for the darker back-alley conflicts, and some more fast-paced for the most exciting scenes. — Katharine Booth

Watch on Crunchyroll

23 – Yuri!!! on Ice

Yuri on Ice

Studio: MAPPA
Runtime: October 6th, 2016 – December 21st, 2016

Japan, love it as we may, drags its heels on LGBTQ+ issues. Still being a predominantly Conservative society, the use of homosexuality as a source of ridicule in comedy isn’t uncommon. That’s why Yuri!!! on Ice, which respectfully explores a gay relationship between two male figure skaters, is a breath of fresh air. Positive representation of marginalized communities is a wonderful thing, and Yuri!!! on Ice is a testament to this.

The show is more than just that, though. MAPPA went the whole nine-yards to accurately represent the sport of figure skating with some truly jaw-dropping animation emphasizing the fluid and sweeping movements the sport is known for. It even managed to attract the endorsement of professional figure skaters! — Harry Morris

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed) and Funimation (dubbed)

22 – Vinland Saga

Vinland Saga Thorfinn

Studio: Wit Studio
Runtime: July 8th, 2019—December 30th, 2019

Vinland may be the bountiful wine land of North America, but for young Thorfinn, it’s a near-mythical representation of wholeness and tranquillity that the harshness of war and cruelty of life rob him of as he battles in England. What sets Vinland Saga apart from simply being a historical war drama series with elegantly-animated combat is the thematic weight each blow carries. Every blade is a probe into the forces that shape the emotionally ravaged Thorfinn. This is a philosophical series, charting Thorfinn’s development from innocent child to weary warrior.

Weaving Thorfinn’s story in amongst apocryphal and substantiated history, Vinland Saga has an elegiac quality to it, not just on a personal level for Thorfinn, but Viking society as a whole. The narrative explores the deceptively complex idea of what it means to be a great warrior—and the many answers to it—through Thorfinn’s tribulations, but this is also a series about finality: the death of people, the death of morality, and the death of culture. Set against the tapestry of Viking conquests, Vinland Saga reveals some of the most human and nuanced characters anime has to offer. The decade has saved one of its best series for last. – Declan Biswas-Hughes

Watch on Amazon Prime (subbed)

21 – Fate/Zero

Fate Zero Saber

Studio: ufotable
Runtime: Oct 2, 2011 – Jun 24, 2012

For all the crap the “Fate” franchise gets nowadays for being a convoluted, gender-bent historical figures, mess of affairs, it wasn’t always that way. Fate/Zero is a demonstration of the kind of story the Holy Grail War setting is capable of telling when its firing on all cylinders and is arguably the catalyst for the franchise’s success to this day.

Fate/Zero is remarkably darker in tone compared to other Fate entries thanks in large part to its mature cast. That maturity carries over into its storytelling as character goals and motivations are decidedly cut-throat and pragmatic. Kiritsugu Emiya, in particular, is a downright fascinating anti-hero of a protagonist whose decisions throughout the story, while practical, leave a bitter taste in your mouth over the implications.

Then there’s ufotable’s phenomenal presentation who is also responsible for the recent hit, Kimetsu no Yaiba. Every fight between these heroic spirits are beautifully choreographed that expertly illustrates the power they wield along with unreal sound design. Every clash of a sword, every cast of a spell, every shot of a gun reverberates throughout every bone in your body and makes a strong case for some of the objectively best animation anime has to offer. — Matthew Ponthier

Watch on Crunchyroll and Funimation

20 – My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU

Studio: Brain’s Base (S1); Feel (S2)
Runtime: April 5th, 2013—June 26th, 2015

This show contains the only hotly debated anime relationship “waifu war” worth a damn, because these characters actually feel like people, and the series makes it clear how Yui, Yukino, and Hachiman all complement one another in ineffable and essential ways. But the competing romantic prospects of Yui or Yukino eventually pairing with Hachiman are secondary to one’s desire for the trio to ultimately be happy with themselves and their at-times fraught friendship to last. This is because the series is really about the jaded cynicism of socially outcast teenagers, and the self-sabotaging aspects that temper the awareness of social forces that contribute to their loneliness. The viewing experience can be raw and painful as one sees these awkward teens spiral, but one never loses sight of the hope that, regardless of how the romances pan out, they will eventually be okay surviving in society as happier people. That, regardless of schoolyard politics, these three teenagers will find their places in life eventually. – Declan Biswas-Hughes

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed) and HiDive (subbed/dubbed)

19 – Death Parade

Death Parade Decim

Studio: Madhouse
Runtime: January 9th, 2015 – March 27th, 2015

Death Parade offers a unique take on the concept of a person’s judgment after death, following a plot structure that is at once episodic while continually building upon the show’s broader themes. The story finds its thrills in the high-drama, high-stakes death games it forces its pairs of recently departed to play, with equal parts physical and psychological violence.

While the literal end game of each deathmatch is a seemingly straightforward choice of which of the two participants will be sent for reincarnation and which will be sent to hell, the show makes a point of never leaving the characters’ morality as black-and-white. This makes it hard for the viewer to decide which characters should be sent where, in turn connecting the viewer to the difficult but inevitable choice required of arbiter Decim and his human assistant Chiyuki. As Chiyuki develops her opinions on the flaws of Decim’s judgments of human morality, Death Parade makes a point of presenting her as a useful counterpoint without having her become preachy or too predictable. For all its terror, the show’s art direction creates mesmerizing settings and even its most terrifying, disturbing moments are be both surreal and beautiful. — Katharine Booth

Watch on Funimation

18 – One Punch Man

One Punch Man Saitama

Studio: Madhouse (S1), J.C. Staff (S2)
Runtime: October 5th, 2015 – December 21st, 2015

One Punch Man shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does. The idea of an all-powerful protagonist who’s able to defeat anyone with a single punch doesn’t exactly sound like a promising premise, but it’s ONE’s masterful execution that brings it all together. 

Saitama is a surprisingly nuanced character; he follows a rigorous daily training regimen to become a superhero, but he doesn’t base his worth on how the people he’s saving perceive him. This underlying message of working hard to fulfill one’s own goals no matter what others think permeates the entire show. Be it Mumen Rider selflessly pushing himself to his limits or Genos fully dedicating himself to being Saitama’s disciple in the pursuit of greater power, One Punch Man is as motivational as it is visually stunning. 

On that final note: this anime has easily played host some of the decade’s most gorgeous, bombastic battle sequences this side of Kill la Kill. While Bones pushed the medium forward with its unique melding of different animation styles with Mob Psycho 100, Madhouse translated Yusuke Murata’s painstakingly detailed illustrations into pure eye candy. If nothing else pulls you in, the fights alone warrant a watch. — Brent Middleton

Watch on Crunchyroll and Netflix

17 – AnoHana: The Flower We Saw That Day

Anohana Menma

Studio: A-1 Pictures
Runtime: April 15th, 2011—Jun 24th, 2011

Experiencing the mortality of loved ones is an unfortunate curse in life that affects us all, but unexpected deaths are some of the hardest to mourn because the void appears out of nowhere. Processing that can change somebody and their relationships, not just because of longing or regrets related to the now-absent person, but it’s as if part of their own existences are torn away without forewarning. People either learn to move forward with reality, or let inertia take hold, hoping to stop the pain.

That is the driving conflict of Anohana—a group of teenagers learning to reconcile with the accidental death of their friend Menma five years earlier, and not remaining in the stasis that has deteriorated all their friendships and lives. But the reappearance of Menma as a ghost, who needs help from her old friends to pass through to the afterlife, provides a narrative thread for everyone’s emotions to hang off of, and unlike often in life, engenders cathartic resolution. Scriptwriter Mari Okada and director Tatsuyukai Nagai craft a simple story that leaves plenty of room for the characters to unpack their feelings, and consequently, Anohana’s contemplativeness resonates years later. – Declan Biswas-Hughes

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed)

16 – My Hero Academia Season 3

My Hero Academia Deku

Studio: Bones
Runtime: April 7th, 2018 – September 29th, 2018

My Hero Academia’s first season made it one to watch…

My Hero Academia’s second season propelled it into the league of greats…

And My Hero Academia’s third season continued said rise, hitting viewers with its most ambitiously iconic moments to date. From Izuku’s heart-pounding showdown with Muscular, to All Might’s face-off with arch-nemesis All For One; topping the phenomenal second season of this superhero extravaganza was no easy feat, but My Hero Academia smashed its sky-high bar with a One For All: Full Cowl, delivering one of the most sublime seasons this decade! — Harry Morris

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed) and Funimation (dubbed)

15 – Zombie Land Saga

Zombie Land Saga

Studio: MAPPA
Runtime: Oct 4th, 2018 – Dec 20th, 2018

We live in a post Love Live! world meaning the popularity of idol shows has skyrocketed. Despite that volume, Zombieland Saga is the only one to truly carve out its own unique identity. I never thought zombies and idols were ever a thing I wanted in my life but MAPPA came along and showed just what we’ve been missing out on. 

Zombieland Saga never misses a chance to poke fun at just how absurd idol culture can be. Top-quality gag comedy is already there, but its when the show really leans into the undead cast to carry out jokes only possible utilizing their macabre nature that you’ll find your own sides cracking. Bones creaking and flesh squelching provide positively skin-crawling entertainment.

At the same time, however, Zombieland Saga is a time capsule of sorts that provides a glimpse into both idol related and non-related topics throughout Japan’s history. When the show puts the brakes on the comedy, it’s impressive how much respect it pays in exploring these topics such as social media oversaturation. This combination of comedy and discourse with a one-of-a-kind presentation is what makes Zombieland Saga such an incredibly memorable series. — Matthew Ponthier

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed) and Funimation (dubbed)

14 – Devilman: Crybaby

Devilman Crybaby

Studio: Science SARU
Runtime: January 5th, 2018 (all episodes released)

This beautifully animated, over-the-top action thriller weaves together a story that blends dark fantasy and high school slice-of-life. Within its limited ten-episode run, Devilman takes the time to develop its core characters (mostly high schoolers) through relatable moments, while also running full-throttle through eye-popping fight sequences. By the time the show’s conflict spins out of control, the viewer is tied to the cast enough to root for their survival, while also primed and ready for the all-out war between demons and humans that takes over the show in its last few episodes.

The fact that Devilman balances both so well is crucial to the ending—the show’s fight scenes are always exciting, but it’s only as the humanity of the characters are shown do these fights become exciting and emotional. By the show’s end, the battles are hard to watch because of the viewer’s connection to the characters involved.

Pulling it all together are the questions posed about the vices and virtues of humanity. Devilman: Crybaby accomplishes much within its short running time, never rushed, and always thrilling to watch. — Katharine Booth

Watch on Netflix

13 – March Comes in Like a Lion

March Comes in Like a Lion Rei

Studio: Shaft
Runtime: October 6th, 2016—March 31st, 2018

March Comes in Like a Lion’s real beauty does not come from the wonderfully stylized animation by Shaft; rather, it is that the characters’ incremental evolution is noticeable. The gradual personal growth of protagonist Rei Kiriyama is so rewarding because the audience can see how different he becomes, able to be openly compassionate for his friends —those same friends who helped him in his hour of need — as his own pain debilitates him less. In this way, March Comes in Like a Lion has an immensely strong message and illustration of empathy between people in overcoming individual strife, depression, and loss. It’s subsequently one of the most powerful series about supportive relationships and the emotional load that is borne between loved ones. – Declan Biswas-Hughes

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed) and Netflix (subbed/dubbed)

12 – Hunter x Hunter 2011

Hunter x Hunter

Studio: Madhouse
Runtime: October 2nd, 2011 – September 24th, 2014

Madhouse’s 2011 reboot of Hunter x Hunter redefined what it means to be in the upper echelon of shounen. Yoshihiro Togashi’s story of a young boy who dreams of becoming a professional Hunter and finding his long-lost father is one full of heart, nuance, and some of the best arcs in anime, period. Though a good deal of Hunter x Hunter’s appeal is in its grand set-piece battles and iconic villains (Hisoka in particular), it’s the enduring friendship between Gon and Killua that subtly steals the show more often than not. In a series full of endless twists and subverted expectations, their unabashed love for and reliance on each other is the only constant.

Or it would be if the writing wasn’t so consistently top-notch across the board. The sheer variety and depth of characters here can only be compared to One Piece itself. Whether it’s the notorious Phantom Troupe, the King, or Ging, the narrative somehow manages to humanize its most esoteric, unlikable figures with ease. If you want to see Madhouse at what’s arguably their best, don’t sleep on one of the greatest anime of all time. — Brent Middleton

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed) and Netflix (dubbed)

11 – Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju 

Show Genroku Rakugo Shinju

Studio: Studio Deen
Runtime: January 9th, 2016 – March 25th, 2017

Rare is the anime that warrants the label of “masterpiece”, but the two-season epic Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju more than earns it. Fitting for a series about theatrical performances, Rakugo’s narrative is one that takes from the classical themes of comedy and tragedy. There’s a dry wit to the show that gives it a much-needed sense of levity at times, as it often treads uncomfortable territory. Shakespearean drama pervades Rakugo’s writing and themes, where emotions are fully worn on sleeves and pushed to their limits.

Rakugo is a story about storytelling and frames it within the life and work of Kikuhiko, a master rakugo artist. As a performative art, rakugo draws upon the human condition in order to inform the craft. Mirroring what happens on stage, Kikuhiko’s story is one that spans decades; decades of laughter, tears, triumphs, and betrayals. Though Rakugo spends much of its time focusing on a single person on-stage telling a story, the show does a fantastic job of making you feel as though you’re right there in the theater, listening to these tales in person. — Kyle Rogacion

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed)


Now we’re entering the final stretch of our list and easily the fiercest part of our voting process with shows winning by the smallest possible margins. These are the anime that will stand the test of time and are paragons of what the medium is capable of accomplishing.


10 – Steins;Gate

Steins Gate Okabe and Kurisu

Studio: White Fox
Runtime: April 6th, 2011 – September 14th, 2011

Adapted from the wildly popular visual novel, Steins;Gate is a slow-burn that masterfully weaves together a deep narrative with a strong cast of characters. As one of the few pieces of media to have a nearly air-tight depiction of time travel, Steins;Gate is a show that demands your attention. It makes sure to build its world deliberately and carefully; each detail is accounted for, setup, and paid off.

But what truly pushes Steins;Gate into being a remarkable series is the juxtaposition between its serious subject matter and the more lighthearted elements. For the first half of the show, Steins;Gate plays out like a standard slice-of-life mixed in with a healthy dash of mystery and intrigue to get the story rolling. Set in and around the otaku paradise of Akihabara, there is absolutely no shortage of weeby goodness. From maid cafes to chanboard references, Steins;Gate revels in its dorky trappings. 

But, much like the series’ protagonist, Rintarou Okabe, looks can be deceiving. Steins;Gate is a story with international conspiracies, science fiction, dumb jokes, and hard moral questions. What it’s about, however, is what’s most important to Okabe: love. — Kyle Rogacion

Watch on Funimation (subbed and dubbed)

9 – Kimetsu no Yaiba

Kimetsu no Yaiba Zenitsu

Studio: ufotable
Runtime: April 6th, 2019 – September 28thth, 2019

In an age where very few traditional shounen are still making waves, Kimetsu no Yaiba took the industry by storm this year with the most delicate blend of visceral action, pitch-perfect pacing, and compassionate storytelling since the 2011 Hunter x Hunter remake.

There’s simply so much Kimetsu no Yaiba gets right. For one, Tanjirou’s rise in skill is gradual and earned through constant training and battle experience. Instead of burning through the strongest adversaries in the first season, most of the show’s truly daunting foes haven’t even been encountered yet. And the authentic and heartwarming friendship between Tanjirou, Zenitsu, and Inosuke does a brilliant job of balancing out some of the monstrosities they come across.

Beyond the supreme coziness of the season’s final episodes and ufotable’s absolutely gorgeous combat sequences throughout, it’s the way Kimetsu no Yaiba humanizes its villains that ultimately sets it apart from the rest. Every demon was a human once, and illustrating their descent into losing hold of that humanity allows viewers to sympathize with them as much as Tanjirou does. The love in his heart for these unfortunate souls is palpable, and it’s this underlying foundation of empathy that makes the show such a delight. — Brent Middleton

Watch on Crunchyroll and Funimation 

8 – Mob Psycho 100

Mob Psycho 100 Reagan

Studio: Bones
Runtime: July 11th, 2016 – September 27th, 2016

The second season of Mob Psycho 100 showcased Mob’s growth from a gullible, naive child into a confident young man, but it was the show’s premiere season that made Mob and Reigen some of the most likable characters in the medium. Mob’s complete faith in the endlessly charismatic Reigen often leads to him being taken advantage of, but it’s always clear that Reigen has nothing but his best interests at heart. Knowing this makes it all the easier to crack up at Reigen’s ridiculous schemes and marvel at his people skills; in many ways, he’s just as much a draw as Mob is in the first season. 

All of this is to say nothing of Bones’ stunning animation, of course. Going for a style closely resembling ONE’s original webcomic, Mob Psycho 100’s visuals are both easily recognizable and dynamic. Any scenes involving psychic powers or ghosts are a treat to behold, especially Mob’s 100% scenes that exude a raw, emotionally charged energy rarely captured by traditional animation. The studio’s use of different artistic styles–the Paint-on-Glass ED deserves particular recognition–elevates ONE’s sharp writing to create one of the most unique anime out there. — Brent Middleton

Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed) and Funimation (dubbed)

7 – Little Witch Academia

Little Witch Academia

Studio: Trigger
Runtime: January 9th, 2017 – June 25, 2017

Trying their hand at a Harry Potter-like tale, Trigger delves headlong into a world of witches. Further establishing their prowess for genius, Little Witch Academia is overflowing with charm and delight. It also fits the ‘Pixar’ demographic, being suitable for younger audiences, but with enough substance for adults to have a blast alongside them.

Kicking off with a short film in 2013, Little Witch Academia’s debut received such impassioned feedback that it opened the gates to a followup fifty-minute endeavor in 2015’s extremely excellent Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade (funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign). But where these treaded water, 2017’s eventual 25 episode series brought the magical potential of these fictitious witches to glimmering life.

Akko’s struggle to succeed in a magical world due to having no magic of her own may raise the red flag of ‘a bit formulaic’, but Trigger swerves from conventions elsewhere and hits all the right story beats to make Little Witch Academia work like a charm. — Harry Morris

Watch on Netflix

6 – your name.

you name

Studio: CoMix Wave Films
Release: August 26th, 2016

Makoto Shinkai’s Achilles heel is sticking too rigidly to his ‘star crossed lovers with a supernatural twist’ formula. Whilst your name. is no exception to this, it sees the director and writer in total mastery of his craft. Refining his artistry and striking the perfect balance between style and substance, your name was a gargantuan success, doubling Japan’s box-office revenue of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2016, easily dominating the number one spot and earning rave reviews globally.

I stepped into the cinema upon your name’s limited UK release knowing only “It’s a body swap film”. I’m glad I went in blind, because it absolutely astounded me (and became one of my favorite films ever)! — Harry Morris

Purchase on Funimation and Amazon

5 – Kill la Kill

Kill la Kill Matoi Ryuko

Studio: Trigger
Runtime: October 4th, 2013 – March 28, 2014

Trigger’s larger-than-life full-series debut showcases many qualities they’d later become renowned for. From creative animation to brain-bending surrealism, the plight of Ryuko Matoi as she wages bloody war against the Life Fibers is bombastically entertaining! 

Kill la Kill is an endearingly weird beast of explosive action and surreal humor. On the surface, it’s gleeful dumbness to the extreme; but even gleeful dumbness can start a conversation, with Kill la Kill’s having debate about the context and intent of its nudity. Is said nudity (which becomes narratively relevant over the 24 episodes) metaphorical for personal empowerment and liberation from society’s norms, or is it fan service for the sake of fan service? The debate divided many, but one thing’s unanimous: this high octane cacophony of eccentricity is a shining standout this decade. — Harry Morris

Kill la Kill is sheer fun, and cemented Trigger as a studio with boundless potential!

Watch on Crunchyroll and Hulu

4 – Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Mami

Studio: Shaft
Runtime: Jan 7th, 2011 – Apr 22nd, 2011

Many attest the popularity of Puella Magi Madoka Magica to its dark nature, but that is far from the only reason it still sticks in our minds today. 

Madoka Magica doesn’t rely purely on its tone to engage its viewers. It’s psychedelic visuals and shocking scenes with horrifying implications may be what grab its audience’s attention, but it’s the finely tuned narrative that’s all-killer, no-filler that keeps them around. Its juxtaposition of hope and despair keeps the viewer constantly on edge as they yearn in vain to avoid the inevitable worst possible outcome. Characters’ passions, ideals, and motivations are presented with crystal clear clarity, making their struggles hit all the harder.

Madoka Magica’s biggest accomplishment, however, is how it manages to do all this while still being distinctly a magical girl show. This isn’t just a shounen with the skin of a magical girls show like many of its contemporaries, but a loving deconstruction of all aspects that make the genre what it is. It’s a true magical girl show enjoyable by more than just magical girl fans and no show has replicated that to the same extent. — Matthew Ponthier

Watch on Crunchyroll and Funimation

3 – The Promised Neverland

The Promised Neverland

Studio: CloverWorks
Runtime: January 11th, 2019 – Mar 29th, 2019

The Promised Neverland is one of the most suspenseful anime of the past decade, even with a mere twelve episodes. The stakes are high after the end of the first episode, shattering the initial image of the show’s deceptively calm, peaceful and idyllic orphanage setting. What follows is a great escape anime with a twist—the escapees are children. The main trio are highly intelligent and strategize cooperatively at the best of times, while also being distinct in their points of view and their own ideals for how to escape and what comes next. The show is a thrilling battle of wits, focusing on the planning and escape of the children and the terror of the orphanage’s Mother (and, later, the Sister), while providing just enough insight into the world beyond the orphanage to keep tensions high and the tip-of-the-iceberg worldbuilding a fascinating and terrifying mystery. — Katharine Booth

Watch on Crunchyroll and Funimation

2 – Made in Abyss

Made in Abyss

Studio: Kinema Citrus
Runtime: July 7th, 2017 – September 29th, 2017

Made in Abyss is one of the very few anime I can comfortably recommend to anyone regardless of preference. It’s as much a story about Riko’s journey to meet her mother as it is about the horrific, ambivalent ecosystem of the Abyss itself. Instead of traveling around the world and discovering new lands, Riko and Reg travel down into the earth armed with nothing but Reg’s mechanical body, Riko’s years of research, and a heartbreaking determination that makes their sacrifices all the more painful to witness. 

And yet, for as cruel as the environments and creatures of the Abyss are to these kids, it’s a wonder to witness how quickly they’re forced to grow and adapt together. Riko and Reg balance each other out perfectly; without Reg, Riko would be powerless against the harshness of her surroundings, and without Riko, Reg would have no idea how to survive or where to go. Their ingenuity and selflessness when faced with protecting each other has truly made them one of the most likable and well-balanced duos in quite some time.

Whether it’s the show’s gorgeous environmental design, terribly cruel plot, or adorable main cast, Made in Abyss is a must-watch by all metrics. — Brent Middleton

Watch on Amazon Prime Video and VRV 

1 – A Place Further Than The Universe

A Place Further Than The Universe

Studio: Madhouse
Runtime: Jan 2, 2018 – Mar 27, 2018

We’ve all been there and no, I don’t mean we’ve all been to Antarctica. I mean that we’ve all been in the shoes of Mari “Kimari” Tamaki and her friends in some shape or form during our lives, possibly right this very moment. The desire to accomplish “something”; the nagging fears of letting life become stagnant; the romantic ideal of being able to single-mindedly pursue a goal and see it through — no show better encapsulates these kinds of emotions so tenderly than A Place Further Than The Universe.

Making Antarctica the ultimate destination is not only wonderfully unique, but also lends both a fantastical and grounded nature to the story of these young girls as it is a location hardly explored in media in general, much less anime specifically. The journey of Kimari and co. to the titular place further than the universe is one of deeply personal introspection and growth. How their individual motivations for joining the expedition intertwine and push them to grow is remarkably touching while also hitting on lessons rarely seen in anime such as when it’s not alright to forgive someone.

What seems like at first glance as a simple “cute girls doing cute things” show with an Antarctic flare, Madhouse instead decided to take this land both alien and familiar to nearly everyone, and craft a story that is relatable to nearly everyone. A Place Further Than The Universe is a downright inspiring tour de force and a sordid reminder of how the biggest obstacle to breaking out of the “norm” and doing something “different” is often in our own heads. — Matthew Ponthier

Watch on Crunchyroll


And there you have it, GoombaStomp’s curated list for the best anime of the decade. Do you agree? Disagree? Of course you disagree, so let us know what you think in the comments! The worst snubs, the underrated, the overrated, or –dare I say — something you actually agree with; let us all know down below! If you’re lookig for more retrospectives check out the last episode of our Anime Ichiban podcast where we discussed the most influential shows of the decade.

One thing is certain, though, and that is the incredible progress anime has made in a mere ten years and it’s positively exhilerating to think of where it’ll be in another 3650 cycles of the sun!

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